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In Spain, the Republican defenders of Madrid raise the white flag over the city, bringing to an end the bloody three-year Spanish Civil War.
In 1931, Spanish King Alfonso XIII approved elections to decide the government of Spain, and voters overwhelmingly chose to abolish the monarchy in favor of a liberal republic. Alfonso subsequently went into exile, and the Second Republic, initially dominated by middle-class liberals and moderate socialists, was proclaimed. During the first five years of the Republic, organized labor and leftist radicals forced widespread liberal reforms, and the independence-minded Spanish regions of Catalonia and the Basque provinces achieved virtual autonomy.
The landed aristocracy, the church, and a large military clique increasingly employed violence in their opposition to the Second Republic, and in July 1936 General Francisco Franco led a right-wing army revolt in Morocco, which prompted the division of Spain into two key camps: the Nationalists and the Republicans. Franco’s Nationalist forces rapidly overran much of the Republican-controlled areas in central and northern Spain, and Catalonia became a key Republican stronghold.
READ MORE: 7 Things You May Not Know About the Spanish Civil War
During 1937, Franco unified the Nationalist forces under the command of the Falange, Spain’s fascist party, while the Republicans fell under the sway of the communists. Germany and Italy aided Franco with an abundance of planes, tanks, and arms, while the Soviet Union aided the Republican side. In addition, small numbers of communists and other radicals from France, the USSR, America, and elsewhere formed the International Brigades to aid the Republican cause. The most significant contribution of these foreign units was the successful defense of Madrid until the end of the war.
In June 1938, the Nationalists drove to the Mediterranean Sea and cut Republican territory in two. Later in the year, Franco mounted a major offensive against Catalonia. In January 1939, its capital, Barcelona, was captured, and soon after the rest of Catalonia fell. With the Republican cause all but lost, its leaders attempted to negotiate a peace, but Franco refused. On March 28, 1939, the victorious Nationalists entered Madrid in triumph, and the Spanish Civil War came to an end. Up to a million lives were lost in the conflict, the most devastating in Spanish history.
Spanish Civil War ends - HISTORY
The Spanish Civil War came to an end in March 1939, with the surrender of Madrid and Valencia. The Republicans had fought a long and valiant defense, but the superior armaments and outright intervention of the Germans and Italians (particularly the air forces), overwhelmed the Republicans. Seven hundred thousand lost their lives in battle 30,000 were executed or assassinated and 15,000 were killed in aerial bombings during the course of the war.
In early 1937 the Spanish Nationalists under Franco tried to cut the links between Madrid and Valencia. Still, the Republican forces were able to stop them and force the Italian troops that were fighting for the Nationalists to withdraw. Franco decided to change tactics and concentrate on capturing the rest of the Basque area. His forces made slow but steady progress. To help Franco's forces, German bombers would bomb towns that basque troops might be in. On March 31, 1937, they bombed Durango killing 258 people, mostly civilians.
The German next target was the Basque capital of Guernica. The city was full of refugees from the surrounding area. On April 26, German aircraft bombed the town on market day of three hours. When it was over, at least 1,645 people were dead. The bombing of Guernica marked a new milestone in the history of aviation. The first massacre to be carried out from the air. The bombing of Guernica received extensive attention in the worldwide media and became a rallying cry for anti-fascist worldwide. However, on the ground, the bombing achieved its goal, and the forces of Franco went on to conquer the entire Basque region by October. At the same time, however, government forces were making advances against the rebels in the country's center, reconquering areas that had earlier been lost however, the cost of those advances was very high.
In early 1938 the Republicans succeeded in conquering Teruel from Franco's forces. However, Franco, thanks to heavy Italian and German air support, was able to reconquer it. On March 7, Franco's forces launched the Argon Offensive, and by April 14, they had reached the Mediterranean, effectively cutting the area controlled by the Republicans in half. The Republicans responded with an all-out campaign to recapture the territory in the Battle of the Ebro. The battle lasted from July 24 to November 26, 1938, the Republican efforts failed. Their morale was hurt by the Munich accords, which undermined the hope of the Republicans for a united front with Western powers. The failure of the offensive doomed the Republicans. At the beginning of 1939, Franco's troops attacked Catalonia Tarragona fell on January 15, 1939, followed by Barcelona on January 26. On March 26, the Nationalists began their final offensive. They occupied Madrid on March 31, 1939. The Spanish Civil War was over Franco had won.
Spain after the Civil War. International Relations.
Post-Civil War Spain and the International Community.
The Second World War began in early September 1939, four months after the Civil War ended in Spain. Given that Germany and Italy had assisted the Nationalist cause, Franco’s sympathies were predictably with the Axis powers.
But with his country exhausted and half of it against him he was hardly in a position to offer much concrete help. Nevertheless, for both Hitler and Franco there were benefits if they could reach an agreement.
Hitler wanted land access to Gibraltar Franco wanted food, war material and above all a substantial share of France’s North African colonies, with a view to replacing France as a Mediterranean power. The two leaders met in the French Pyrenean town of Hendaye on October 23 1940.
A myth has grown up around the scheduled time for the meeting. To Franco’s great embarrassment, his leaky, rickety train arrived a few minutes late, a most inauspicious start when facing the most powerful man in Europe.
When the war was over, Francoist spin doctors put it out that the caudillo had deliberately kept the Fuhrer waiting for an hour as evidence of his independence and as a ploy to keep the German leader off balance. Detractors quickly pointed to the dreadful state of the Spanish railways as the cause of any delay.
Whatever the case, Franco irritated Hitler by obstinately reiterating his conditions for Spanish entry into the war. These proved too demanding and all that the Fuhrer was able to extract from the caudillo was an ambiguous promise that Spain would enter the war when the moment was right. Hitler summed up his frustration later to Mussolini when he remarked that he would rather have three or four teeth removed rather than repeat the experience with Franco.
The right moment to join the war never did materialise. Franco did declare a vague state of “non-belligerence” and granted refuelling facilities to Axis ships/ submarines in Spanish ports.
But the closest he got to action in the Second World War was to send a division of Blue Shirted Falangist** volunteers to the Russian front in 1941 as a gesture of goodwill and a means of avenging communist interference in the Spanish Civil War.
It also satisfied Falange wishes of supporting the Axis without offending Monarchist sentiments, which were on the side of the Allies.
By 1943 the tide had turned in favour of the Allies and Franco began to change tack. To the delight of the Monarchists in his camp, he withdrew the Blue Division from the Russian front (it had suffered heavy casualties in the battle of Stalingrad), and for the first time announced Spain to be “neutral”.
Nevertheless, Spain continued to sell wolfram and other metals to help the German war machine, German radar installation still operated in the country, and German agents still operated on Spanish soil. Also volunteers from the Blue Division still fought in Russia.
A cosmetic change took place within Franco’s office after the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 reflecting new priorities: autographed photos of Hitler and Mussolini –which had shared pride of place with a similar tribute from the Pope– suddenly vanished.
At the same time Franco’s publicity machine started to crank out anti-Bolshevik messages in an attempt to convince the Allies that sympathy for Germany had been inspired by hatred for a common enemy: communism.
Franco’s change of heart was patently opportunistic, and when the Second World War ended in 1945 Spain found itself isolated and an international pariah. Britain had elected a socialist government in 1945, France was leaning to the left, and President Roosevelt –and later Truman– of the United States were no admirers of the caudillo. To all he was an unrepentant fascist, an argument to which the Soviet Union also subscribed.
The full extent of Spain’s isolation became clear when the newly created United Nations adopted a resolution moved by Mexico (which had a large contingent of influential Republican exiles) to exclude it from the new organisation. And there was more. In February 1946 France closed its border to commerce with Spain, following the execution of an exiled Republican who had fought in the French Resistance.
In December 1946, the United Nations recommended that all members withdraw their ambassadors from Madrid. In the following year (1947) Spain was excluded from the Marshall Plan for the economic recovery of Europe as long as the dictatorship remained. In the meantime, exiled Republicans were agitating vigorously for the overthrow of Franco, and Spanish maquis (resistance fighters) were engaged in guerrilla activities in the north east of the country (the Pyrenees).
Franco’s position seemed precarious, but in fact the threat was more apparent than real.
1. In the first place, he knew from public statements made by members of the United Nations that they had no intention of intervening to overthrow him. Not only did this strengthen his position at home, it also left exiled Spaniards dispirited and disillusioned.
2. Secondly, he did have support in a few quarters: the Vatican, Portugal and Ireland recognised his regime, and President Juan Domingo Perón of Argentina was a staunch ally whose gifts of wheat on credit were vital for Franco’s survival for a number of years.
3. Thirdly, Franco successfully turned diplomatic ostracism into a rallying cry for Spanish patriotism, generating a “them” versus “us” mentality. The state controlled press played this to the full, portraying Spain as a Catholic country, fighting alone against the poison of world communism, rampant freemasonry, and an international conspiracy working to keep Spain weak. The siege mentality was easy to cultivate in a country that had long crusading history.
For Franco, the essential message was that Spain was the first country to successfully crush the Marxist menace. It was a successful ploy, and before long the Western powers turned him from pariah to valuable ally, not because of any change in his politics but because of Spain’s strategic position and his proclaimed battle against the Marxist threat. In this, Soviet expansionism came to Franco’s aid.
Background to the change of international attitude towards Spain.
In a celebrated speech in March 1946, the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, declared that an “iron curtain” had fallen across Europe. Two years later (February 1948) Czechoslovakia was swallowed behind that curtain and shortly after (June) the Russian blockade of Berlin got started.
By now the Cold War was well under way, pitting the Soviet Union against its former Western Allies. In April 1949, the Western Powers created the North American Atlantic Organisation (NATO, from which Spain was excluded) to contain the Soviet threat.
A few months later (August), the Soviets successfully exploded their first atomic bomb. Before the end of the year (October) China had joined the communist family, and although Mao Tse Tung steered an independent course from Russia, it seemed to the West, and especially the United States, that the sphere of Soviet influence was spreading ominously.
In the United States itself the discovery of a communist spy ring triggered the notorious, countrywide hounding of anyone associated in any way with publicly expressed left wing views. With the witch-hunting senator Joseph McCarthy given a public forum, Americans were fed a daily diet of the imminent dangers of communism.
Finally, in 1950 in a move sanctioned by Stalin, North Korea invaded South Korea, under American control since the defeat of Japan in World War II. This was a challenge the West could not ignore. The Korean conflict was to keep it busy for three years.
To Western observers Soviet imperialism was running rampant, and war in Europe now seemed a distinct possibility. Suddenly Franco’s repressive regime and fascist connections were conveniently forgotten in favour of his staunch anti-communism, particularly for the Americans. But even more important was Spain’s strategic position, mid way between Europe and Africa and controlling the western end of the Mediterranean.
Result of the change of attitude.
Moves started immediately to end Spain’s isolation. By the end of 1950 the majority of members of the UN voted to reopen embassies in Madrid, with the USA doing so in December.
On a very tangible level, Washington also authorised a loan of over $62 million to rearm the Spanish army. It was a bitter pill to swallow for Franco’s enemies. Not only was the caudillo’s position now virtually unassailable, it also allowed him ample opportunity in his end of the year address to the country to justify his past stance and boast of his accomplishments.
More international recognition was to feed Franco’s vanity: in November 1952 Spain was admitted to UNESCO, in August of 1953 a Concordat was signed with the Vatican, and finally in 1955 Spain was received into the United Nations.
In the meantime, a mutual defence pact was signed with the USA in 1953, allowing four air bases and one naval base to be established on Spanish soil, as well as refuelling facilities in Spanish ports. The pact also included $226 million in military and technological aid.
The decision was not without opposition in Spain, however. Cardinal Segura –a religious fanatic who had fanned the flames of discontent in the early years of the Second Republic (1931-39)– now crusaded against the betrayal of Spain’s Catholic identity for heretical dollars. The thought of protestant soldiers contaminating the Catholic purity of the country was enough to drive the aged churchman to distraction. It also earned him the attention of Franco’s secret police from then on.
The Falangists were also uncomfortable with the military pact. For them –and other nationalists– the presence on Spanish soil of troops from the most powerful military nation in the world was a threat to Spain’s sovereignty.
However, over mutterings of new Gibraltars and grumblings of fraternizing with the enemy that in 1898** had finished off the empire, Franco presented the bases pact as both an alliance of equals and a great service to the West against communism.
The caudillo was not above basking in the praise of his own greatness in the way things had turned out, and no doubt preened with pleasure when an editor of the Barcelona newspaper La Vanguardia Espanola acclaimed him as the Caudillo of the West, the only truly great man of the twentieth century, a giant by the sides of such dwarves as Churchill and Roosevelt (Preston 626)!
Franco undoubtedly felt such praise more than justified when he was visited in December of 1959 by the President of the United States, General Dwight Eisenhower. It was the high point of his international career, a meeting of two military leaders, and he talked of nothing else during the weeks that followed.
Although there were subsequent visits from Presidents Nixon and Ford, there was no rush by other distinguished political leaders to follow the American example. As leaders of the West, and the driving force behind the creation of NATO, the Americans tolerated Franco because of their strategic interests.
In return Franco received military aid (even if it was outdated or surplus stuff), but was unable integrate Spain into the North Atlantic military club. Here other members, e.g Britain and France, dug in their heels denying the caudillo valuable propaganda material.
Franco was less concerned with membership of the newly created European Economic Community (EEC). He believed it was a political body run by freemasons and liberals who would demand political liberalisation, which he refused to contemplate. Nevertheless, persuaded by economic reformers within the Movimiento**, he agreed to open negotiations in February, 1962.
The EEC’s refusal to negotiate, however, wounded his pride and justified his subsequent reaction that Spain was still surrounded by enemies. It continued the rhetoric of post Civil War ostracism, and reaffirmed the “them” versus “us” mentality.
What Franco failed to recognise was that he was an anachronism, and that as long as he insisted on running the country it would remain on the periphery of the European Community. Though Spain’s strategic location was important, Franco’s insistence on retaining power and on executing political opponents (e.g. the notorious case of the Communist activist Julián Grimau in 1963, or Basque rebels in September 1975) ensured that Spain would remain politically on the side lines.
It also ensured that when he died on November 20, 1975, Franco’s funeral would be attended by very few foreign dignitaries. There were representatives of almost 100 foreign countries, but only one head of state, his fellow dictator General Augusto Pinochet of Chile.
This says much of what Franco meant on the international stage. Fossilised in the past, he took his leave of the world with words –to be addressed to the nation as his political testament after his death– that reflect an unchanging and uncompromising attitude: do not forget that the enemies of Spain and of Christian civilisation are on the alert (Preston 779). In the world community, the majority did not forget that Franco was the enemy of freedom and in the end denied him the reward of international respect.
Barton, Simon A History of Spain 2nd ed. Basingstoke, Hampshire 2009
Ellwood, Sheelagh Francisco Franco London, New York 1995
Gies, David T The Cambridge Companion to Modern Spanish Culture Cambridge 1999
Graham, Helen & Labanyi, Jo Spanish Cultural Studies: An Introduction Oxford 1995
Herr, Richard An Historical Essay on Modern Spain Los Angeles 1974
Hodges, Gabrielle Ashford Franco: A Concise Biography London 2000
Preston, Paul Franco London 1995
Shubert, Adrian A Social History of Modern Spain London 1990
Sueiro, Daniel & Diaz Nosty, Bernardo Historia del Franquismo Vol 1, Madrid 1986
Tremlett, Giles Ghosts of Spain New York, Berlin, London 2008
Learning From The Spanish Civil War
Over the past few days, I watched a 1983 British television documentary about the Spanish Civil War. It’s six hours long, but you can watch it all on YouTube, starting here. I think it was Uncle Chuckie who recommended it — and boy oh boy, was that ever a solid call. Last week I posted here that I knew almost nothing about the Spanish Civil War, but now I can’t say that. The passion, the pain, and the terrible tragedy of that three-year conflict (1936-39) came vividly alive in the series, which was impressively balanced. I expected it to be heavily tilted toward the Republican (leftist) side, but the UK producers allowed both left and right to tell their stories. One advantage the filmmakers had is that they made it in the early 1980s, when many of those who lived through and even fought in the conflict were still alive to offer their testimony.
What follows are some scattered impressions.
Maybe it’s an American thing, but it’s hard to look at a conflict like this without imposing a simple moralistic narrative on it, between the Good Guys and the Bad Guys. Certainly the received history of the conflict frames it as an unambiguous fight between democracy and fascism — and the evil fascists won. The truth is far more complicated.
In fact, the filmmakers make a point of saying that ideologues and others who project certain narratives onto the conflict do so by ignoring aspects of it that were particularly Spanish. That is to say, though the civil war did become a conflict between fascism and communism (and therefore a proxy war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union), that’s not the whole story. Its roots have a lot to do with the structure and history of Spain itself.
The first episode covers the years 1931-35, which covers the background to the war. In 1930, the military dictatorship was overthrown, and municipal elections across the country the next year led to a big win for combined parties of left and right who favored a democratic republic. (N.B., not all leftists and rightists wanted a republic!) After the vote, the king abdicated, and the Republic was declared. Later that spring, leftist mobs burned convents and churches in various cities, while Republican police stood by doing nothing. This sent a deep shock wave through Spanish Catholicism.
The Republic, in typical European fashion, was strongly anticlerical. It quickly passed laws stripping the Catholic Church of property and the right to educate young people. There were other anticlerical measures taken. Anti-Christian laws, and violent mob action, were present at the beginning of the Republic. Prior to watching this documentary, I assumed they happened as part of the civil war itself. Imagine what it was like to see a new constitutional order (the Republic) come into being, and suddenly you can’t give your children a religious education, and your churches and convents are being torched. How confident would you be in the new order?
According to the film, Spain was still in the 19th century, in terms of economics. It was largely agrarian, with a massive peasantry that was underfed, and tended to be religious and traditional. On the other hand, they were dependent on large landowners who favored the semi-feudal conditions. These landowners were extremely conservative. Their interests clashed, obviously, and became violent when the land reform promised by the liberal Republicans did not materialize fast enough for the peasantry. Mind you, the Republic was declared in the middle of the global Great Depression, with all the political and economic turmoil that came with it.
The urban working class was organized along Marxist lines, though the left was badly fractured, and unstable. There were democratic socialists, but also communists who hewed closely to the Stalinist line. Plus, anarchists were a really significant force in Spain, something unique in Europe at the time. They competed politically, and usually aligned with the left in fighting the right. But they refused to compromise their principles by taking formal power, even when the defense of the Republic required it.
Regional autonomy also played a role in defining sides. When the civil war started, Catholics supported the Nationalist side (the Francoists) … but not in the Basque Country, which was religious, but which wanted more self-rule — something the Nationalists despised. Catalonia also wanted more independence, which meant it was firmly Republican. Barcelona, the Catalan capital, was a Republican stronghold for left-wing reasons, to be sure. I bring up the situation with the Basques and the Catalans simply to illustrate the complexity of the conflict.
Anyway, the 1933 elections resulted in a swing back to the right, with a coalition of center-right and far-right parties winning control, and reversing some of the initiatives of the previous government. Socialists, anarchists, and coal miners in the province of Asturias rebelled against the Republic. They murdered priests and government officials the military, led by Gen. Franco, brutally suppressed the uprising. All of this radicalized the left even more.
By 1935, left-right opinion had become so polarized that there was practically no middle ground left. Both sides came to distrust democracy because it was the means by which
Falangist propaganda poster
their enemies might take power. And, as one Nationalist interviewed in the documentary puts it, people on the left and right just flat out hated each other. The whole country was a powder keg.
By the 1936 campaign, the centrist parties had practically disappeared. A leftist coalition won the vote, but deadly violence between left and right began ramping up. A far-right fascist militia, the Falange, formed. Mutual assassinations on both sides, and street fighting between Falangists and Republican forces, triggered a military coup against the government. The coup failed to overthrow the Republic, but it did divide the country, and spark a civil war between Nationalists and Republicans. Gen. Francisco Franco quickly emerged as the Nationalist leader.
I give you all that history to show what was news to me: that this was by no means a simple case of right-wing military figures trying to overthrow a democratically elected government — though it was that too!
The series devotes an hour each to the complicated internal politics of both the left and the right. All my life I’ve heard Franco and the Nationalist side described as “fascist,” but it’s not accurate. True, the Nationalist had real fascists in their ranks — that was the Falange — but Franco exploited and controlled them. The Falange’s founder, Jose Antonio Rivera, was killed by the Republicans, and turned into a martyr by the Nationalists. Doing so allowed Franco to embrace the Falange but also to defang them as a political force. In the film, an elderly Falangist complains that Franco was not a real fascist, and he wouldn’t seriously implement the Falange’s program (e.g., Falangism’s opposition to capitalism).
The documentary says Franco ought to be understood as a hard-right conservative authoritarian, not a fascist. Mussolini was a big supporter, and sent troops and military aid, but was frustrated by Franco’s failure to be affirmatively fascist. Hitler sent lots of military aid, which was critically important to the Nationalist victory, but was angry at Franco for not being willing to be more Nazi-like. The truth is, Franco was trying to lead a reactionary coalition of fascists, monarchists, traditionalist Catholics, and others on the Right. The Spanish Right by and large did not trust the Spanish fascists, who were revolutionary modernists. This is an example of the filmmakers’ point that you can’t get a true grasp on what was happening in Spain at the time by imposing a narrative that overlooks particularly Spanish characteristics of the conflict.
Franco managed to unite the right, but the left remained hopelessly mired in internal rivalry. If you’ve read Orwell’s Homage To Catalonia — which I did in the early 1990s, and forgot all about — you know something about how fissiparous and treacherous left-wing politics were in the Spanish Civil War. Orwell went to Spain to fight with the POUM, the democratic socialists. They were set upon and betrayed by Spanish communists loyal to the Soviet Union. The Soviets were open supporters, military and otherwise, of the Republicans, but also instructed their Spanish followers to undermine the non-communist left.
Two things struck me about the left. I mentioned earlier the role of the anarchist militias, and how they were both crucial to the Republican war effort — they were fierce fighters — but also an Achilles heel, because they were obstinately principled. There’s a passage in the film in which a Republican veteran talks about how hard it was to get the anarchists to take military orders (naturally!). They would stand around debating about whether or not they should obey an order, while the far more disciplined Nationalists would be making gains. Isn’t that cartoonish, in a herding-cats way? But it happened.
The other thing — and this, to me, was the more important thing — was how off-the-hook crazy the Spanish left was. In 1936, after the start of the war, the anarchists and left-wing supporters led a revolution within the Republic. Here’s Orwell describing revolutionary Barcelona:
It was the first time that I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle. Practically every building of any size had been seized by the workers and was draped with red flags and with the red and black flag of the Anarchists every wall was scrawled with the hammer and sickle and with the initials of the revolutionary parties almost every church had been gutted and its images burnt. Churches here and there were being systematically demolished by gangs of workmen. Every shop and cafe had an inscription saying that it had been collectivized even the bootblacks had been collectivized and their boxes painted red and black.
That’s from Orwell, but this is reported in the Granada documentary too. It’s this kind of thing that made me aware that had I been alive then, I would have 100 percent supported the Nationalists. It was truly a revolution, and violently anti-Christian to the core. It was brought low by the communists, on Moscow’s orders, on the grounds that defeating fascism had to come before the revolution. The communists were right.
[UPDATE: A reader points out that I can’t possibly know how I would have reacted had I been born Spanish, and had been there at the time. This is a fair point, of course. I should have made the more modest and defensible claim that watching the documentary made me certain that I am glad the Nationalists won. Had I been there at the time, though, as a Spaniard, I likely would have fought for whichever side my family and friends supported. Similarly in the US Civil War, it would be silly for me to say that had I been there at the time, I 100 percent would have supported the Union, for anti-slavery reasons. I am against slavery, naturally, and like to think I would have fought for the Union. But the truth is, had I been there, I would almost certainly have fought for the South, like my family and friends, because I would have seen it as fighting for them. This is a good reason for all of us, whatever our political convictions, to be careful about passing harsh judgment on Spaniards of the era. We may well know today how we would like to have acted were we participants in the events of that era, but that is not at all the same thing as knowing with any certainty how we would have acted. — RD]
At the end of the documentary, there were film clips showing Catholics who lived in Madrid and other Republican-controlled cities, going to public masses. An old Catholic who had lived through those times told the filmmakers that for the first time in years, they could be public about their faith. That’s how I knew for sure that the correct side had won the war.
However, the Nationalists were exceptionally merciless in victory. Both sides committed appalling atrocities during the war, but after Franco won, he was cruel to the vanquished. He established a hardline Catholic autocracy that ruled Spain until his death in 1975. It’s not surprising that what Franco stood for did not survive him.
Watching the film made me realize what an Anglo-American right-wing liberal I am, by temperament. I would have been quite out of place in Franco’s Spain. I suspect that many left-wing Americans who watch it will realize the same thing about themselves when faced with the excesses of the Spanish left. The inhumanity of Francoism is undeniable.
And yet, there was no conservative-liberal alternative in 1930s Spain — nor were there any liberal-liberal alternatives, in the sense that we Americans recognize. Most members of the Democratic Party today would not be as anti-Christian as mainstream Spanish leftists in 1931. There are very few members of the GOP who are as hardline as Spanish rightists were. But — here’s the thing — the dynamic that radicalized both sides is recognizably emerging here.
How would you have felt as a Spanish Catholic in 1931, watching the new Republic pass laws closing Catholic schools and taking away many of your religious liberties, and then, when leftist mobs started burning churches and convents, observing the police letting it happen? How might that have affected you politically? Similarly, if you were on the left, and saw the Falangists, bona fide fascists, making alliances with other right-wing parties, and growing in strength and influence, how would that likely affect your political judgment?
I want to say something about religion. The documentary’s attention to the radical, violent, even murderous anticlericalism of the Spanish Republic and its supporters deeply affected my historical judgment about the conflict. Before watching it, I knew that the Spanish left had been anticlerical, but again, I thought it was something the left did in the heat of war. I had not realized how radically anticlerical they were long before the fighting started, and how they used democratically acquired powers not to reform the role of the Church in Spanish life — something that is defensible, in principle — but to amputate it from the body politic. So intense was the Republican hatred of religion that its politicians either could not anticipate the reaction from Spanish Catholics, or did not care.
Watching this in the documentary made me reflect on how we are living through a much less vivid version of the same thing here. As the American left secularizes — and as that secularization expands — the left’s hostility to religion, as well as its inability to comprehend why religion matters so much to others, will likely bring about a more aggressively anti-religious state. Damon Linker wrote about this last year. Excerpt:
More traditional religious believers already feel under siege from the federal government and an often overtly hostile surrounding culture. Liberals tend to dismiss this as paranoia and whining. But as we saw with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s harsh questioning on Wednesday of judicial nominee Amy Barrett, a devout Catholic, the impression isn’t wholly without foundation in reality. (Back in June, Bernie Sanders posed similarly accusatory questions to a conservative evangelical nominee for the Office of Management and Budget.) The message conservative believers hear from liberals and the left is clear: If you hold traditionally religious views, you will be treated as an unwelcome outsider in American public life.
This hostility has provoked a shift in the goals and outlook of traditionalist Christians. Where once they thought of themselves as a “moral majority” that might retake political and cultural institutions and transform them in their image, now they merely want to ensure that the government’s power to persecute them is restrained. (Hence the emphasis of the dwindling religious right on religious liberty protections.)
Hence also the strategic (some say cynical) alliance many evangelicals forged with Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. There is abundant anecdotal evidence that the alliance may well backfire, hastening the exit of young (overwhelmingly anti-Trump) evangelicals from the faith. But those evangelical leaders who supported and continue to stand by Trump would likely say that this eventuality makes it even more essential to establish a strong presidential protection racket for religious institutions. The smaller and less powerful the church becomes, the more persecution it is likely to face in an increasingly secular (and sometimes even explicitly anti-religious) common culture.
In this respect, the rise of Donald Trump to the presidency was driven in part by a precipitous collapse in the power of the churches in American public life.
We conservative Christians are very well aware that to our opponents, religious liberty is nothing more than an excuse for hating on LGBTs. This idea would have been strange a generation ago, when standing for religious liberty was a bipartisan cause. When you are not religious yourself, and when you know no one who is religious, and when you have taken up egalitarianism as a secular religious crusade, it’s easy to find yourself with incomprehension of religious believers, and contempt for them as Enemies Of Progress.
The historical and cultural contexts are not the same for the Spanish left of 1931, and the American left of 2019, but the incomprehension and contempt for religion is similar. And, as Linker (a liberal) points out, there is no reason to believe that when younger Americans detach from religion — as is happening widely — that they will become secular liberals or progressives:
As Trump’s strong support in the GOP primaries among non-religious Republicans attests, a significant number of the post-religious (especially those who are less well educated) could well end up on the nationalist alt-right.
The Spanish Civil War documentary doesn’t go into this level of detail, but I find it unlikely that many of Spain’s Catholics were enthusiastic about all members of the Nationalist coalition. In fact, I read elsewhere that middle-class and upper-class Spanish traditionalists and conservatives regarded the Falange with the same kind of disdain that many American rightists see the alt-right, and the more enthusiastic #MAGA backers. Nevertheless, if you are a Christian, and you have to choose between a party whose members you don’t like for whatever reasons, but who will leave you alone, and a party whose members will take away your religious liberties, and, at the extreme, will burn your churches — well, that’s not much of a choice, is it?
I can’t stress this enough: we Americans today are not dealing with the extremes of the early Spanish Second Republic. We have a much deeper and older tradition of democracy than Spain did. We do not (yet) have the intense and grinding class divisions that Spain did. We are not remotely as poor as Spain was back then. But the care we have to take not to overstate the comparison should not cause us to dismiss the parallels in the political dynamic that led to the end of democracy, and civil war — especially if something like the Great Depression struck.
Whether you are for or against Donald Trump, it should be obvious that his election, and takeover of the GOP, has destabilized American politics, and the broad establishment consensus around which it has been based since time immemorial. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is beside the point here. The point is that something massively important has happened, something that shakes the system. Trump’s radicalism has mostly not manifested in actual policies, but in his flagrant repudiation of ethical and procedural norms.
If I were on the political left, and I saw that conservative voters were willing to nominate a man like Donald Trump, make him president, and allow him to govern with little opposition, it would unnerve me, and make me more radical. If I observed things like Scott Walker and Republican legislators in Wisconsin passing bills to limit the powers of the incoming Democratic governor, I would be tempted to lose a lot of faith in democracy. The Republicans in Wisconsin did not trust the Democrats with power, and tried to blunt the effects of the last election. It may be legal, but it is clearly undemocratic, and a vote of no confidence in the system. It shouldn’t surprise anybody that Democrats respond with the same cynicism.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the Democratic Party, which has its hands firmly on the grips of power, is trying to use redistricting to make the state’s Republicans a permanent minority. It’s so undemocratic that even some prominent Democrats outside the state (e.g., Eric Holder) have spoken out against it. Still, there it is. It’s another example of one party using its power in ways that undermine confidence in democracy. If this kind of thing takes hold, what are the brakes on it? This is how democracy collapsed in Spain: with both left and right coming to fear and loathe each other so intensely that they ceased to respect a system that allowed their enemies to come to power. And when parties did come to power, they so feared and loathed the Other that they did as much as they could to advance their own interests, heedless of the opposition, in order to gain “territory,” so to speak, in advance of the next election, which could flip power back to the other side.
For many of us conservatives who either do not like Trump, or who at least are very skeptical of him, the utterly disgraceful behavior of the Democratic Party in the matter of the Brett Kavanaugh nomination was a clear sign of how far the left party is willing to go to protect its goals. I felt it myself, and talked to a number of conservatives who came away from the Kavanaugh hearings feeling more radicalized. The idea was, if they will do that to him, they’ll do that to me, if they win power, and have the opportunity.
This is exactly the kind of thing that unraveled the Spanish Republic. And, to be fair, the refusal of Senate Republicans to give Judge Merrick Garland a hearing may have been hardball politics, but it was also one of those things that delegitimizes the system.
Again: The historical example of the Second Spanish Republic shows what contempt for the opposition does to the stability of democracy. This is not only true of the Spanish Republic, but for the Roman Republic too. In his new book Mortal Republic, which examines how the Roman Republic fell apart and gave way to tyranny, historian Edward Watts observes:
Rome shows that the basic, most important function of a republic is to create a political space that is governed by laws, fosters compromise, shares governing responsibility among a group of representatives, and rewards good stewardship. Politics in such a republic should not be a zero-sum game. The politician who wins a political struggle may be honored, but one who loses should not be punished. The Roman Republic did not encourage its leaders to seek complete and total political victory. It was not designed to force one side to accept everything the other wanted. Instead, it offered tools that, like the American filibuster, served to keep the process of political negotiation going until a mutually agreeable compromise was found. This process worked very well in Rome for centuries, but it worked only because most Roman politicians accepted the laws and norms of the Republic.
Watts says that in the Roman Republic’s final century, politicians began to use the mechanisms of governance in ways that disproportionately favored their own side, and punished the other side. They surrendered a sense of “fair play,” and began to see politics as a zero-sum game. Violence in the streets between political factions followed — just as it had in the Spanish Republic. Watts writes:
Roman history could not more clearly show that, when citizens look away as their leaders engage in these corrosive behaviors [i.e., practicing zero-sum politics, and encouraging street violence between political factions], their republic is in mortal danger. Unpunished political dysfunction prevents consensus and encourages violence. In Rome, it eventually led Romans to trade their Republic for the security of an autocracy. This is how a republic dies.
Last year, David Blankenhorn made a list of 14 causes of political polarization in our time. It’s well worth reading. He calls the final one the most important cause:
- Favoring binary (either/or) thinking.
- Absolutizing one’s preferred values.
- Viewing uncertainty as a mark of weakness or sin.
- Indulging in motivated reasoning (always and only looking for evidence that supports your side).
- Relying on deductive logic (believing that general premises justify specific conclusions).
- Assuming that one’s opponents are motivated by bad faith.
- Permitting the desire for approval from an in-group (“my side”) to guide one’s thinking.
- Succumbing intellectually and spiritually to the desire to dominate others (what Saint Augustine called libido dominandi).
- Declining for oppositional reasons to agree on basic facts and on the meaning of evidence.
Well, yes, this is true. What I wonder, though, is how much common ground actually exists. I don’t deny that it does, but I seriously doubt whether as much still exists as people like to think. I am reminded of this 2015 post of my interview with “Prof. Kingsfield,” the pseudonym of a professor at one of America’s most elite law schools. He and I spoke right after the Indiana RFRA fight of 2018:
“Alasdair Macintyre is right,” he said. “It’s like a nuclear bomb went off, but in slow motion.” What he meant by this is that our culture has lost the ability to reason together, because too many of us want and believe radically incompatible things.
But only one side has the power. When I asked Kingsfield what most people outside elite legal and academic circles don’t understand about the way elites think, he said “there’s this radical incomprehension of religion.”
“They think religion is all about being happy-clappy and nice, or should be, so they don’t see any legitimate grounds for the clash,” he said. “They make so many errors, but they don’t want to listen.”
To elites in his circles, Kingsfield continued, “at best religion is something consenting adult should do behind closed doors. They don’t really understand that there’s a link between Sister Helen Prejean’s faith and the work she does on the death penalty. There’s a lot of looking down on flyover country, one middle America.
“The sad thing,” he said, “is that the old ways of aspiring to truth, seeing all knowledge as part of learning about the nature of reality, they don’t hold. It’s all about power. They’ve got cultural power, and think they should use it for good, but their idea of good is not anchored in anything. They’ve got a lot of power in courts and in politics and in education. Their job is to challenge people to think critically, but thinking critically means thinking like them. They really do think that they know so much more than anybody did before, and there is no point in listening to anybody else, because they have all the answers, and believe that they are good.”
On the conservative side, said Kingsfield, Republican politicians are abysmal at making a public case for why religious liberty is fundamental to American life.
“The fact that Mike Pence can’t articulate it, and Asa Hutchinson doesn’t care and can’t articulate it, is shocking,” Kingsfield said. “Huckabee gets it and Santorum gets it, but they’re marginal figures. Why can’t Republicans articulate this? We don’t have anybody who gets it and who can unite us. Barring that, the craven business community will drag the Republican Party along wherever the culture is leading, and lawyers, academics, and media will cheer because they can’t imagine that they might be wrong about any of it.”
Here we are three years later, and Republicans have done very little on religious liberty. It’s not nothing that they aren’t hostile to it, as Democrats are — but that’s not the same thing as taking affirmative measures to protect it. A side issue illuminates more starkly how useless the GOP is on socially conservative legislation: despite that fact that Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, they still wouldn’t defund Planned Parenthood.
Of course we keep voting for them because even if they don’t want to help us, it’s better to vote for people who don’t want to hurt us than for people who do. But I digress.
David Brooks foresees a critical challenge facing conservatives in this new year. He says we are likely to see indictments of Trump insiders this year. And:
If we lived in a healthy society, the ensuing indictments would be handled in a serious way — somber congressional hearings, dispassionate court proceedings. Everybody would step back and be sobered by the fact that our very system of law is at stake.
But we don’t live in that world anymore. If indictments are handed down and we move towards trial, we know what Donald Trump will do. The question is, says Brooks: what will the Republican Party do? What if it sides with Trump and describes the proceedings as a political farce?
If that happens, then the roughly 40 percent of Americans who support Trump will see serious evidence that he committed felonies, but they won’t care! They’ll conclude that this is not about law or integrity. It’s just a political show trial. They’ll see there is no higher authority that all Americans are accountable to. It’s just power and popularity straight through.
If that happens, we’ll have to face the fact that our Constitution and system of law were not strong enough to withstand the partisan furies that now define our politics. We’ll have to face the fact that America has become another fragile state — a kakistocracy, where laws are passed and broken without consequence, where good people lay low and where wolves are left free to prey on the weak.
He’s right. Understand that Brooks, though he despises Trump, is not making a merely partisan point here. It really matters if 40 percent of the US public sees evidence of felonious behavior in a president, but don’t care. It is a sign of deep decadence. On the other hand, it must be asked how we got to a point when so many people prefer Trump to rule by a Democrat. This is not to excuse them (a “them” which might well include me), but rather to serve as a spur to serious analytical thinking. Why did so many Spanish Catholics and middle-class Spaniards throw in with right-wing autocracy over a democratically elected Republic? If you say that the Spanish left’s words and deeds had nothing to do with driving people to the right, you’re blinding yourself.
But the opposite is also true. It was true in Spain then, and it’s true in America now. We on the right have to own our part in this destructive dynamic. It’s important to add that, as Tucker Carlson explained three years ago, when Trump was still a GOP primary punch line, Trump is in large part a judgment on the failures of the conservative Washington Establishment.
There’s no question that Trump is an accelerant in the burning down of the Republic, if that, indeed, is what’s happening. The thing I can’t settle in my mind is this: is this fate inevitable? Was the Spanish Republic’s fate? Watching the documentary, it is hard for me to see what might have happened in Spain to save the Republic. The divisions were too deep, and the passions too strong.
However, as I said at the beginning of this post, quoting the filmmakers, we can’t understand what happened in Spain by imposing the politics of other countries onto it. Spain had a militant right wing that was aligned with Nazis and Fascists, but it was not Nazi, and it was not entirely Fascist. Spain had a militant left wing that was aligned with Stalin and the USSR, but it was not entirely Stalinist. The civil war took on aspects of ideological warfare in other European countries, but it was, at its core, a Spanish thing.
Similarly, comparisons between America today and Spain in 1931 can only go so far. Still, they can be made, and ought to be made, not least so we can think about how we might avoid the fate of the Spanish Republic. If we can. If you see nothing else of the Granada series, watch the first episode: “Prelude To Tragedy”. Prior to watching the film, I didn’t know enough about the Spanish Civil War to have understood why it was a tragedy, in the precise sense (as distinct from the general sense of the word “tragedy” to mean “a bad thing that happened”). Now I see that it was exactly that: a catastrophe that was unavoidable, and the dénouement of which elicits both pity and terror — pity for the suffering of all Spaniards, left and right, and terror at what the civil war reveals about the fragility of civilization.
If nothing else, learning about the modern history of Spain has evoked a certain tenderness in my heart for that country, which I do not know. I’m very much looking forward to my visit this month. To this blog’s Spanish readers, I hope to meet some of you:
UPDATE: Reader Luis comments:
Thank you for this post, Rod. I’m a Portuguese national who has been living in the States for the last ten years. Though these events are not directly part of my country’s history but rather that of “nuestros hermanos”, as we affectionately call our Iberian neighbors, I have long been fascinated with the Spanish Civil War and I do think there are some parallels with our time (mutatis mutandis). In particular, I think you get to the tragic heart of it all when you say:
“The Spanish Civil War documentary doesn’t go into this level of detail, but I find it unlikely that many of Spain’s Catholics were enthusiastic about all members of the Nationalist coalition. In fact, I read elsewhere that middle-class and upper-class Spanish traditionalists and conservatives regarded the Falange with the same kind of disdain that many American rightists see the alt-right, and the more enthusiastic #MAGA backers. Nevertheless, if you are a Christian, and you have to choose between a party whose members you don’t like for whatever reasons, but who will leave you alone, and a party whose members will take away your religious liberties, and, at the extreme, will burn your churches — well, that’s not much of a choice, is it?”
The tragedy of the Spanish Civil War was indeed that it drowned out the moderates on both sides, forcing them into Faustian bargains. The problem is, Franco’s integralism (as Salazar’s in my country) was ultimately disastrous for the moral authority of the Church. I think something similar will happen in the US – this alliance of religious/social conservatives with the Falange-viva-la-muerte-alt-right types will be the end of us. And it’ll happen much sooner than it happened to Catholicism in Spain.
Miguel de Unamuno saw this coming in Spain by the way. He pleaded at the time that the Church be more open towards political liberalism since only political liberalism, he thought, offered a chance for spiritual rejuvenation of his country. He was a voice crying in the wilderness. But he was right. Franco was ultimately the undertaker of Spanish catholicism. Yes, Franco delivered the Spanish Church from martyrdom – and I am not making light of the suffering of martyrs. But avoiding martyrdom came at a price – the price of a slow spiritual and moral death. From a supernatural perspective (again, not making light of suffering), which one is worse?
Frankly this is why all this Deneen nonsense about the errors of political liberalism really gets my blood boiling. Our only hope lies in (classical) liberal values, in reasoned debate in the “marketplace of ideas”. It’s not sexy, I know – intellectuals love being armchair rebels, especially in a country like the U.S. where since liberalism is the historical norm, you can come across as a daring maverick for defending the utter insane idea that integralism in 21st century America makes any kind of sense or has any kind of relevance.
So no, I don’t think we need to join the National Front of our day. What we need is more Unamunos. And if it turns out that we’ll be voices crying in the desert and that there won’t be enough of us to make any real political difference, then at least I prefer that kind of tragedy to that of the Faustian bargain. But maybe I’m too much of an idealist…
With all of that being said, who knows what any of us would have done in 1930s Spain? I certainly understand those who reluctantly supported the National Front, exactly for the reasons you give. But understanding them doesn’t mean that I hold them as the ideal or the model to be followed in our day (or in theirs).
UPDATE.2: Look, folks, don’t mess up the thread with whataboutism of the left or the right. I’m not going to post it. You’re boring me to death with it.
How Did the Spanish Civil War End? … Not So Well
Sandie Holguín is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma. A cultural and intellectual historian of modern Europe and modern Spain, she is the author of Creating Spaniards: Culture and National Identity in Republican Spain (University of Wisconsin Press, 2002). She previously wrote an article for the AHR on battlefield tourism during the Spanish Civil War (December 2005). She is currently writing The Soul of Spain? Flamenco and the Construction of National Identity, 1800–1975, which explores how regional nationalists, Spaniards, and foreigners grappled with flamenco culture as a symbol of Spanish national identity.
Sandie Holguín, How Did the Spanish Civil War End? … Not So Well, The American Historical Review, Volume 120, Issue 5, December 2015, Pages 1767–1783, https://doi.org/10.1093/ahr/120.5.1767
I n trying to understand N ietzsche’s concept of eternal return, the novelist Milan Kundera contrasts the weight of singular historical events with their transformation into something ephemerally light as they move away from us in time and distance: “If the French Revolution were to recur eternally, French historians would be less proud of Robespierre. But because they deal with something that will not return, the bloody years of the Revolution have turned into mere words, theories, and discussion, have become lighter than feathers, frightening no one.” 1 Similarly, in grappling with how civil wars end, it becomes too easy for historians, especially those concerned with historical memory or usable pasts, to trivialize through abstract analysis the real trauma inflicted on human beings over the course of a war by substituting historical memory for the visceral experience of violence that comes during.
1936-1939: The Spanish civil war and revolution
A short history of the Spanish civil war and revolution which broke out in response to the right-wing and fascist coup attempt of General Franco.
The war lasted for three years and ended with Franco's victory, aided by fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. The revolution saw huge swathes of Spanish industry and agriculture socialised and run collectively by the workers and peasants.
The fascists launched a coup on July 17th 1936. The initial step was taken when Franco seized Morocco and issued a "radical manifesto". This was picked up by a loyal radio operator who passed it on to the Minister for the Navy. The news of the coup was kept secret until 7pm on the 18th while they tried to come to terms with the fascists. The cabinet resigned on the 18th and Barrio, a right wing republican, was made prime minister.
The coup was only smashed by the activity of the working class. The fascists made some headway in parts of the country but in Catalonia, and especially Barcelona, the CNT (Anarcho-Syndicalist union) showed how to fight. They declared a general strike and took to the streets looking for arms which the government refused to give them. In the end they stormed the barracks, and took what they needed.
The workers immediately set up barricades and within hours the rising had been defeated. Arms were seized and given to workers who were dispatched to other areas to prevent risings. Madrid was also saved because of the heroism and initiative of the workers. Hearing of what had happened in Barcelona they had stormed the main army base in the city.
The action of the rank and file saved the Spanish Republic. Not just the CNT but the UGT (Socialist union) and POUM (Anti-Stalinist Communists) joined in the fighting. For these workers this was not just a war to defeat the fascists but the beginning of revolution. Workers' militias were established. Workplaces were taken over and in peasants seized the land.
Anarchism in Action - The Militias
The government found itself in a peculiar situation after July 19th. It remained the government but had no way of exercising authority. Where the rebellion had been defeated the army was disbanded and workers armed. Militias were formed and these became units of a revolutionary army. Ten days after the coup there were 18,000 workers organised in the militias of Catalonia (mostly from the CNT). Overall there were 150,000 volunteers willing to fight whenever they were needed.
This was no ordinary army. This was a revolutionary army with revolutionary principles. The basic unit was the group, composed generally of ten, which elected a delegate. Ten groups formed a century which also elected a delegate. Any number of centuries formed a column, which had a war committee responsible for the overall activities of the column. This was elected and accountable to the workers.
Workers joined columns voluntarily. They understood the need to fight and the necessity of creating a "popular army". They accepted discipline because they understood the need to act in a co-ordinated manner. These were political organisations that understood the link between revolutionary politics and the war. The militias formed in Barcelona lost no time in marching on Aragon where the capital, Saragossa, had been taken by the fascists. The Durruti Column led this march and gradually liberated village after village.
The Durruti column showed how to fight fascism. As they gained victory after victory they encouraged peasants to take over the land and collectivise. The Column provided the defence that allowed this to be done. The peasants rallied to them and many joined. Indeed Buenaventura Durutti had to plead with some of them not to join so that the land would not be depopulated and the task of collectivisation could be carried through.
As the anarchist militias achieved successes ground was being lost on other fronts. Saragossa, though, was not taken and a long front developed. The militia system was blamed for this. The Stalinists said the workers were undisciplined and would not obey orders. They accused the anarchists of being unwilling to work with others to defeat the fascists. Of course this was nonsense. The anarchists continually called for a united war effort and even for a single command. What they did demand, though, was that control of the army stayed with the working class and not a new militarist officer caste.
The major problem facing the militias was a lack of arms. The munitions industry been cut off and the workers in Barcelona went to great lengths to improvise. George Orwell (who fought in one of the POUM militias) described the arms situation on the Aragon front. The infantry "were far worse armed than an English public school Officers Training Corps, with worn out Mauser rifles which usually jammed after five shots approximately one machine gun to fifty men and one pistol or revolver to about thirty men. These weapons, so necessary in trench warfare, were not issued by the government. A government which sends boys of fifteen to the front with rifles forty years old and keeps its biggest men and newest weapons in the rear is manifestly more afraid of the revolution than the fascists".
And how right he was. Moscow sold arms but when they arrived there was a systematic refusal to supply the anarchist-controlled Aragon front. The arms that did arrive were sent only to Stalinist centres. A member of the war ministry referring to the arms which arrived in September commented "I noticed that these were not being given out in equal quantities, but there was a marked preference for the units which made up the [Stalinist] Fifth Regiment".
It is a common lie that the militias, supposedly undisciplined and uncontrollable, were responsible for Franco's advance. All who saw the militias in action had nothing but praise for the heroism they witnessed. The government made a deliberate choice. It chose to starve the revolutionary workers of arms, it decided that defeating the revolution was more important than defeating fascism.
Anarchism in Action - The Land
It was in the countryside that the Spanish revolution was most far reaching. The anarchist philosophy had been absorbed by large layers of the downtrodden peasants and the outbreak of revolution was the opportunity to put these ideas into practice.
Collectivisation of the land was extensive. Close on two thirds of all land in the Republican zone was taken over. In all between five and seven million peasants were involved. The major areas were Aragon where there were 450 collectives, the Levant (the area around Valencia) with 900 collectives and Castille (the area surrounding Madrid) with 300 collectives.
Collectivisation was voluntary and thus different from the forced ‘collectivisation’ in Russia. Usually a meeting was called and all present would agree to pool together whatever land, tools and animals they had. The land was divided into rational units and groups of workers were assigned to work them. Each group had its delegate who represented their views at meetings. A management committee was also elected and was responsible for the overall running of the collective. Each collective held regular general meetings of all its participants.
If you didn't want to join the collective you were given some land but only as much as you could work yourself. Not only production was affected, distribution was on the basis of what people needed. In many areas money was abolished. If there were shortages rationing would be introduced to ensure that everyone got their fair share.
Production greatly increased. Technicians and agronomists helped the peasants to make better use of the land. Scientific methods were introduced and in some areas yields increased by as much as 50%. Food was handed over to the supply committees who looked after distribution in the urban areas.
However, slander was also thrown at the collectives. It was claimed that each only looked after itself. This was rubbish as in many areas equalisation funds were set up to redistribute wealth. Machinery and expertise were shifted to areas most in need. One indicator of the solidarity is the fact that 1,000 collectivists from the advanced Levant moved to Castille to help out.
Federations of collectives were established, the most successful being in Aragon. In June 1937 a plenum of Regional Federations of Peasants was held. Its aim was the formation of a national federation "for the co-ordination and extension of the collectivist movement and also to ensure an equitable distribution of the produce of the land, not only between the collectives but for the whole country". Unfortunately many collectives were smashed by the Stalinists before this could be done.
The collectivists also had a deep commitment to education and many children received an education for the first time. The methods of Francisco Ferrer, the world famous anarchist educationalist, were employed. Children were given basic literacy and inquisitive skills were encouraged.
Anarchism in Action - Industry
Although the revolution didn't go as far in the cities as it did in the country, many achievements are worth noting.
To give some idea of the extent of the collectivisation here is a list provided by one observer (Burnett Bolloten, The Grand Camouflage. By no means an anarchist book!). He says:
"railways, traincars and buses, taxicabs and shipping, electric light and power companies, gasworks and waterworks, engineering and automobile assembly plants, mines and cement works, textile mills and paper factories, electrical and chemical concerns, glass bottle factories and perfumeries, food processing plants and breweries were confiscated and controlled by workmens's committees, either term possessing for the owners almost equal significance". He goes on "motion picture theatres and legitimate theatres, newspapers and printing, shops, department stores and hotels, de-lux restaurants and bars were likewise sequestered".
In each workplace the assembly of all the workers was the basic unit. Within the factory workers would elect delegates to represent them on day-to-day issues. Anything of overall importance had to go to the assembly. This would elect a committee of between five and fifteen worker, which would elect a manager to oversee the day-to-day running of the workplace. Within each industry there was an Industrial Council which had representatives of the two main unions (CNT and UGT) and representatives from the committees.
Within workplaces wages were equalised and conditions greatly improved. Take for example the tramways. Out of the 7,000 workers, 6,500 were members of the CNT. Street battles had brought all transport to a halt. The transport syndicate appointed a commission of seven to occupy the administrative offices while others inspected the tracks and drew up a plan of repair work that needed to be done. Five days after the fighting stopped, 700 tramcars, instead of the usual 600, all painted in the black and red colours of the CNT were operating on the streets of Barcelona.
With the profit motive gone, safety became more important and the number of accidents was reduced. Fares were lowered and services improved. In 1936, 183,543,516 passengers were carried. In 1937 this had gone up by 50 million. The trams were running so efficiently that the workers were able to give money to other sections of urban transport. Also, free medical care was provided for the work force.
In 1937 the central government admitted that the war industry of Catalonia produced ten times more than the rest of Spanish industry put together and that this output could have been quadrupled if Catalonia had the access to necessary means of purchasing raw materials.
The Counter Revolution
The behaviour of the Spanish Communist Party and the United Socialist Party of a Catalonia (PSUC) had more to do with what was in Stalin’s best interests than the Spanish working class’. They went out of their way to deny that a revolution had taken place then did all they could to repress this revolution they pretended had not happened. As far as they were concerned the Civil War was only about restoring democracy to Spain.
To prevent the British and French settling their differences with Hitler at the expense of the Soviets, in order to guarantee that the Franco-Soviet Pact would not fall by the wayside and in order to conclude similar pacts with the governments of other countries, notably Britain, it was essential that governments hostile to German aims in Eastern Europe should be brought to power. It was to this end that the Popular Front line was adopted at the 7th World Congress of the Comintern in August 1935. This body collected together all the Communist Parties under Russian leadership.
This was a class collaborationist anti-fascist people’s front in which the Communist Parties were to play down revolutionary politics. This was to be a struggle to preserve bourgeois democracy.
The policy of wooing the British and French ruling classes was from the beginning doomed to failure. Not only because of their military unpreparedness but because of their belief that if they became involved at this stage in a war with Hitler, both they and the Nazis would be weakened and thus the position of Russia would be enhanced. At all times right up to the outbreak of WW2 the British sought to come to terms with Hitler which would leave him free to attack Russia in the East.
The point about the Communist Party is that they directed the counter-revolution. They called the shots. They were the only people who were clear about the 'necessity' for the counter-revolution and had the determination to carry it through. Their ability to do this was derived from the prestige that came with the fact that Russia was the only country supplying major quantities of arms to the Republic. The Russians not only supplied arms but also military advisors and technicians who gradually took over the running of the war.
Because of this control of arms the Communists, supported by the others, enforced militarisation. The militia system was broken up. A regular army was rebuilt with the militias who refused to come under the command of the War Ministry (and many CNT and POUM militias did refuse) were starved of arms. They were left with no choice.
The police were also rebuilt, especially the hated Civil Guards, who had been a bulwark of repression against the CNT. They were now to be called the National Republican Guard. The Assault Guards were re- established and had 28,000 recruits by the beginning of December. The Carabineros, who were the border police in charge of customs and under the control of Minister of Finance Negrin (a known Communist sympathiser) grew to 40,000 members.
The state was giving itself a monopoly of force. The workers' patrols which had sprung up in July were disbanded. Workers were ordered to hand in their arms and those who declined to do so were considered 'fascists'. It was said that these arms were needed at the front. While it is true that arms were needed at the front this argument was only put forward as a means of disarming revolutionary workers. There were plenty of arms under the control of the police. George Orwell observed after the May Days in Barcelona "the Anarchists were well aware that even if they surrendered their arms, the PSUC would retain theirs, and this is in fact what happened after the fighting was over. Meanwhile actually visible on the streets, there were quantities of arms which would have been very welcome at the front, but which were being retained for the 'non-political' police forces in the rear". (Homage to Catalonia p.151).
The May Days
On May 3rd 1937, three lorry loads of police led by the Stalinist Salas, Commissar of Public Order, attempted to take over the telephone exchange in Barcelona which had been controlled by a joint CNT-UGT committee since the outbreak of the war.
The police captured the first floor because of the surprise nature of their attack but got no further. Firing started. Word spread and within hours the local defence committees of the CNT-FAI went into action arming themselves and building barricades. Soon the workers were in control of most of the city.
In other areas of Catalonia action was also taken. Civil Guards were disarmed and offices of the PSUC were seized as a "preventive measure". There was no firing on the first night and by the second day the workers were spreading the barricades further into the suburbs.
The negotiations which went on, led to nothing as regards control of the telephone phone exchange. The workers were ordered off the barricades and unfortunately they went. On Thursday (May 6th) the building was vacated and the PSUC took it over. On the same day the railway station was taken over by the PSUC. The CNT had also controlled that. This happened throughout Catalonia.
On Friday 5,000 Assault Guards arrived from Valencia. The repression that followed was severe. The May Days left 500 dead and 1,100 wounded. Hundreds more were killed during the "mopping up" of the next few weeks. The counter-revolution broke out in earnest after May with decree after decree undermining the revolutionary committees. This was now possible as the backbone of the revolution, the Catalan workers, had been crushed.
The Friends of Durruti
The Friends of Durruti was an expression of opposition to the collaborationism of the CNT. Not only in their paper, The Friends of the People, but in countless local publications of the CNT, and indeed of the UGT, POUM and Libertarian Youth you can find such opposition. However it must be said this was only given a clear expression when it was too late. The FoD did not have enough time to win the masses to their position. They understood the need for a regroupment to take on the leadership of the CNT.
Here we see a recognition of the need for a revolutionary minority to organise itself to provide leadership of ideas. An understanding of what has gone wrong and what needs to be done. That the FoD did not set themselves up as "all-knowing leaders' was clear in their proposal.
The Spanish Revolution does not negate anarchism. If anything, long before Poland, Czechoslovakia or Hungary it showed the bankruptcy of Stalinism and the State Capitalism of Russia. The activities of the Stalinists were far from what real socialists would have done.
On the other hand the anarchist masses threw themselves into a fight against fascism, and its cause, capitalism. Unfortunately the revolution was not complete, the CNT leaders held it back. Indeed their behaviour highlights the effect that power can have on even those who lay claim to anarchism. Spain provided important lessons for anarchists. It showed the inadequacy of syndicalism, the need for political anarchism and the need for an anarchist political organisation. We have to understand that the state and political power does not 'die' it has to be smashed.
Above all, Spain showed what ordinary people can do given the right conditions. The next time somebody says workers are stupid and could not take over the running of society, point to Spain. Show them what the workers and peasants (most of whom were illiterate) did. Tell them Anarchism is possible.
Taken from Eddie Conlon's pamphlet, "The Spanish Civil War: Anarchism in Action" for the Workers' Solidarity Movement
Edited by libcom.
Spanish Civil War ends - HISTORY
On July 17, 1936, several officers of the Spanish military initiated an uprising against their own Republican government in Spanish-held Morocco. Additional planned uprisings by other disaffected military officers were staged in major towns and cities throughout mainland Spain at the behest of General Mola in the following days. As the summer of 1936 wore on, General Francisco Franco took the reigns of the military coup and it became clear that Spain was embroiled in a civil war as the country fractured geographically and ideologically along Nationalist and Republican lines.
The significance of the Spanish Civil War as major event in Spanish and European history is well-known. Beyond the implications of the civil war in terms of Spain's own history, the war is viewed, retrospectively, as a prelude to the larger ideological conflicts between fascism, communism, and democracy that eventually consumed all of Europe in World War II. The Spanish Civil War is also remembered as a testing ground for new techniques and technologies of both twentieth-century warfare - as immortalized in the bombing of Guernica - and twentieth-century media as represented by the rise of war photography and photojournalism.
In addition to being an important political event of the twentieth century, the Spanish Civil War was the catalyst for some of the most dramatic imagery of the last century. Among the most striking images are photographs of the war and its effects. Robert Capa's "Death of a Loyalist Militiaman" (1937) is perhaps the most iconic photograph from the Spanish Civil War and remains one of the most acclaimed war photographs of the twentieth century. Capa and the other well-known photographers of the period, such as Gerda Taro and David Seymour, are often cited as the primary representatives of early twentieth-century war photography. Undoubtedly, the contribution of Capa, Taro, Seymour and other famous photographers was significant. Yet, focusing solely on the work of well-known photographers tends to obscure from our historical view the work that many other, often anonymous, photographers contributed. With one exception, all of the works here are anonymous aside from a copyright stamp by the news photo agency.
Several of the major news photo agencies of the 1930s deployed photographers who were just as close to the front lines and just as vital as in the dissemination of images of the Spanish Civil War to the rest of the world. These photographers were present throughout the duration of the Spanish Civil War from the initial uprisings in the summer of 1936 to the ultimate collapse of the Spanish Republican government in April of 1939. Consequently, the visual coverage of the conflict was unprecedented. As Susan Sontag explains in a recent article in the New Yorker (December 9, 2002), "the Spanish Civil War was the first war to be witnessed ('covered') in the modern sense: by a corps of professional photographers at the lines of military engagement and in the towns under bombardment, whose work was immediately seen in newspapers and magazines in Spain and abroad."
Much of the new close-up-action style of war coverage can be attributed to advances in photographic technology. News photographers at the front lines were armed with small, portable 35mm cameras, such as the Leica, which could take thirty-six photographs before being reloaded. These cameras - freed from the constraints of a tripod and long film exposure times - allowed photographers to get closer to the action than ever before. In addition newspaper and magazine publishers were increasingly interested in having photographs accompany their news articles. One result of the new interest in photographs of world events was the creation and rise of picture magazines in the 1930s, some of which reported the news entirely in photographs with minimal text to explain the images.
In a recent article on twentieth-century war photography, Michael Griffin discusses the rise of photography and its consequences for war reporting. He writes, "During the course of the twentieth century, photography as a medium slowly and haltingly gained legitimacy as an art form, as professional practice, and as a serious subject of study. Concomitantly, photojournalism asserted itself as an increasingly legitimate, even indispensable, part of the popular press." Although many producers and consumers of the news in the 1930s often dubbed photographs more objective than text in terms of depicting the truth of an event, Griffin observers that "photojournalism emerged as an established practice, albeit one that loosely straddled conventional notions of documentary, news, information, opinion, publicity, and propaganda." As Griffin indicates, even at the time photography was introduced as a form of representing events, there was some question as to the function photographs as either objective documents or subjective propaganda or both.
Since the 1960s and 1970s, scholars of journalism and communications media have been re-evaluating claims of the objectivity of photographs. For instance, in her 1995 essay on the rise of photography in American journalism, Barbie Zelizer notes a lack of attention to the subjectivity of photographs. She writes, "The general function of interpretation has rarely been incorporated into discourse about the photograph, which has tended instead to privilege the image as a 'transcription from reality.'" Many scholars of media and communications, like Zelizer, have been tracing the historical roots of claims about the representational truth of a photograph. Zelizer localizes the rise of claims about the truthfulness of photographs to their use in journals and newspapers of the 1930s and 1940s. In this period, claims of truth and objectivity were fundamental to establishing the legitimacy of photography as a journalistic practice. Zelizer notes that "photojournalists have been thought to offer a 'visual expansion' of journalistic practice, one that appears to increase the truthfulness of news and extend the adage that 'the camera does not lie' to journalism's primary authority, the reporters."
In early days of photojournalism, Zelizer explains that journalists often convinced photojournalists to emphasize photographs as truthful objective representations. The intent was to keep popular understanding of photographs in line with that of the transparent objectivity of the text in news in general. Ironically, war photographs were hardly ever published alone. The images were almost always accompanied by text describing the scene in spite of journalists and photojournalists arguments about the stand-alone truth and transparent objectivity of photographs. Image and text seem to have developed a symbiotic relationship in which they were construed as reinforcing the objective "truth" of each other. Apparently, editors, publishers, and journalists felt that, in practice, photographs needed the interpretive apparatus of a caption in order to ensure that the audience was seeing the image as intended. Limiting interpretation would prove to be especially important for ideologically slanted publications such as those in Britain that tried to woo audiences to the side of either Republican or Nationalist Spain. As evidence of this trend, the photographs of this collection, in addition to bearing editorial marks on the photos themselves, are all accompanied by short captions describing or explaining the scene.
The years of the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939, were a period in which stunning visual imagery emerged in Spain daily. Propaganda posters were deployed by both Nationalists and Republicans to recruit people to their cause. Similarly, periodicals throughout Europe, especially those in liberal democratic states like Britain and France, used photographs of the war for their own propagandistic ends.
In a recent pioneering study on the use of Spanish Civil War photographs in selected French and British periodicals, Caroline Brothers notes, "whether to intervene was a question theoretically tied to public opinion, at least in the foreign democracies, and since this opinion was informed at least as much by images as by text, the press photographs of the Spanish Civil War can be understood as weapons rather than simple illustrations." She continues on the importance of photographs in foreign democracies, "with seemingly everyone from writers to politicians to the Liverpudlian unemployed taking sides over Spain, the civil war took on an unprecedented urgency in the way it was lived and believed in and represented. More than any previous war and possibly any war since, photographs of Spain became images not just of but in conflict. And none of them was indifferent." Thus, the intensity of the photographs derives not only from what they depict but also from the politically and ideologically charged historical context out of which they emerged.
Although none of his work is represented here, Capa's famous photographs remain as some of the most compelling war images of the twentieth century. Even his contemporaries recognized the gravity of his images. This common perception of Capa's work is a testament to the popularity and legitimacy that war photography - dubbed photojournalism in the 1940s - gained throughout the Spanish Civil War. Both Capa's photograph "Death of a Loyalist Militiaman" and Picasso's Guernica exist as two of the most important images to emerge from the war. The fact that one of them was made in the relatively new (at the time) medium of war photography is emblematic of the increased importance and legitimacy war photography gained in the 1930s and thereafter. The photographs in this exhibit show us not only how early twentieth-century photographers visually represented the Spanish Civil War for the news photo agencies. They also reflect the rising importance of photography in the dissemination and representation of war in the early twentieth century.
Spanish Civil War Photographs in the Mandeville Special Collections Library [back to top]
As noted above, the photographs in this exhibit are the products of a junction between the trajectories of European political history and the history of media and communications. Interest in these photographs as artifacts of the twentieth century derives from their participation in both of these historical strands. These images are not only compelling because of what they represent - scenes from the Spanish Civil War. They are also compelling because of how they represent it. The photographs themselves exist as remnants of the practice of photojournalism and the representation of war in the early twentieth-century.
This exhibit contains the ninety-nine photographs that comprise a unit of the Spanish Civil War Collection held at Mandeville Special Collections Library at the University of California, San Diego. Acquired in 2002, the images are of the people and events of the war from 1936 to 1940. It is one of the most extensive on-line exhibits of Spanish Civil War photographs to date. All of the photographs were taken by photographers in the service of various news photography agencies - Associated Press, Keystone View Company, Planet News, World Wide Photos - of 1930s Britain. With the exception of one photograph, the photographs offer no indication of who the actual photographer was. Most simply bear the stamp of the photo agency. Some of the photographs have been identified as appearing in such French, British, and American newspapers and journals as Vu, L'Illustration, Daily Mail, The Illustrated London News¸ Life, and Photo-history. Also, several of the photographs have a caption clipped from a newspaper pasted on the back, which indicates that many of the images did appear in print. However, none of the captions bear any identifying marks to reveal in which specific periodical the photograph appeared.
These photographs represent another installment to the growing collection of visual art and imagery from the Spanish Civil War that the Mandeville Special Collections Library has acquired as part of the Southworth Spanish Civil War Collection. The images in this exhibit take their place alongside two other extensive collections of Spanish Civil War visual imagery: a collection of over 600 drawings made by Spanish school children and a collection of eighty-four graphic propaganda posters. In addition, these visual images are a nice complement to the extensive textual collection of over 13,000 books, pamphlets, periodicals, newspapers, posters, and manuscripts that make up the Southworth Spanish Civil War Collection.
Organization and Presentation
The photographs can be browsed chronologically, by geographic location, or thematically by people, news agency/photographer or war damage. The majority of photographs are images of people both combatants and civilians. The Nationalist and Republican armies as well as a few images of Italian infantries, Spanish communists, and the International Brigades comprise the major groups of combatants represented. The images of civilian life mostly depict refugees fleeing to France or England. There are also a number of miscellaneous images including photographs of political demonstrations and food distribution. Finally, there are a significant number of images of the war damage to physical structures in cities such as streets and buildings in Madrid and Barcelona and the Alcazar in Toledo. All ninety-nine photographs have been scanned on to the website. A large number of them have been "cleaned up" using Adobe® Photoshop® to eliminate editorial cropping marks, highlights, and airbrushing on the originals. Users can choose to view either the "cleaned up" version of photos or an image of the photos as they are with the editorial marks. A caption accompanies each photograph to give further details of what is depicted. All captions are contemporary with the photographs and have been copied from those pasted on the backs of the photographs. These captions are in the form of either newspaper clippings or typed descriptions written, presumably, by a member of the news photo agency or of the periodical that published the photo. Almost all photographs bear the stamp of the photo agency which originally took the picture. Where possible these have been identified so that the images can be browsed by news agency/photographer.
THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR: A BRIEF HISTORY
On 17 July 1936 General Francisco Franco launched a military uprising against the Republican government elected that spring. Mobilising troops from Spanish Morocco – the so-called Army of Africa – the Nationalist forces quickly took control of Seville and other areas in the south. The plotters claimed to be acting in defence of traditional Catholic Spain and to restore order to the country. Their treatment of the opposition was brutal.
REPUBLICAN MILITIAS MOBILISE
Civilians join militias and prepare to fight to defend the Republic. In Barcelona, anarchist workers put down the Nationalist insurgency and launch a social revolution of their own. Factories are collectivised, and in some parts of Catalonia money is abolished. The Ritz hotel in Barcelona is renamed Hotel Gastronómico No 1 and serves as a workers’ canteen. A short-lived euphoria sweeps the left as the belief takes hold that Franco’s uprising could be the catalyst for a socialist revolution. In Madrid, the Republican government, which hopes to build a popular front including moderates and liberals to combat the Nationalist threat, will become increasingly concerned at the growing radicalism.
GEORGE ORWELL JOINS UP
On Boxing Day 1936, the writer arrives in Barcelona and joins up with the Poum, a revolutionary socialist party. Orwell goes to the Zaragoza front to fight and will subsequently write the classic war memoir Homage to Catalonia about his experiences. In May 1937, as tensions mount between communist, socialist and anarchist forces behind the Republican lines, Orwell becomes involved in street battles in Barcelona. His experiences will inform his indictment of Stalinism in the book Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Bombed in April 1937, the fate of the ancient Basque town of Guernica was to become a symbol of the devastation caused by war. Raids by aircraft from Nazi Germany and fascist Italy constituted one of the first systematic aerial bombing campaigns to be conducted against civilians. In January that year, the Republican government had commissioned Pablo Picasso to create a mural for the World’s Fair. After the bombings, that mural became the one depicting the horror and suffering of the town. The artwork remains the most famous ever produced on the subject of war. Hundreds of thousands of civilians died during the civil war as a result of bombings and executions. There is now a museum dedicated to peace in Guernica.
BATTLE FOR MADRID
The Spanish capital endured what amounted to a two-and-a-half-year siege during the civil war. After invading from the south in the summer of 1936, Franco’s forces, assisted by German and Italian air power, came close to taking Madrid towards the end of the year. A heroic resistance saw the Nationalist forces beaten back. But the government eventually decamped first to Valencia, then to Barcelona. By the winter of 1938 Madrid was freezing, starving, and more or less out of arms and ammunition.
On 26 March 1939 Franco ordered his troops to advance on Madrid after fighting there between Republican factions. Two days later the city had fallen. Thousands of its defenders were executed.
For hundreds of thousands of Spaniards, Franco’s victory meant exile. As the Nationalist forces advanced through Catalonia, a steady flow of refugees headed to France. In the winter of 1939 more than 450,000 are estimated to have crossed the border. Some Republicans went on to fight for the French Resistance against the Nazis. The refugees hoped to be welcomed by the French, but they were treated with suspicion and hostility.
From the end of the civil war in 1939 to his death in 1975, Franco ruled Spain. His regime, particularly in the early years, was cruel, repressive and vengeful towards the defeated enemy. Near Madrid a huge monument to the Nationalist dead, the Valley of the Fallen, was erected. Meanwhile the executions of Republican sympathisers continued well into the 1950s, and thousands languished in prison for years.
24 Photographs from the Brutal Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil War took place from 1936 to 1939. The Republicans, loyal to the democratic, leftist urban Second Spanish Republic, in alliance with the Anarchists, fought against the Nationalists, a Falangist totalitarian, aristocratic, conservative group lead by Francisco Franco.
The war began after a pronunciamiento, a declaration of opposition by a group of generals of the Spanish Republican Armed Forces against to elected leftist government of the Second Spanish Republic. The Nationalist group gained the support of the right wing groups such as the conservative Catholic Carlists, the monarchists, and other conservative groups.
The Nationalist coup was supported by military units from the Spanish protectorate in Morocco, Pamplona, Burgos, Zaragoza, Valladolid, Cadiz, Cordoba, and Seville. The Nationalist forces received munitions and soldiers from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The Republican government was supported by the Communist Soviet Union and the leftist populist Mexico. The United Kingdom and France, among other nations, signed an agreement of non-intervention.
The war ended with a victory for the Nationalists. Thousands of leftist Spaniards were exiled, many of whom fled to refugee camps in southern France. Those associated with the losing Republicans were persecuted by the Nationist powers.
Nationalist atrocities, known as the White Terror, were characterized by the orders to eradicate any trace of leftism in Spain. It is estimated that 200,000 Republicans were executed. It is estimated that 55,000 civilians were executed in Republican-held territories. In total, half a million people died during the Spanish Civil war.
SPAIN. Spanish Civil War (1936-9) ICP 193. Madrid. Winter 1936/37. A building destroyed by Italo-German air raids. The Nationalist offensive on Madrid, which lasted from Nov. 1936 to Feb. 1937, was one of the fiercest of the Civil War. During this period Italy and Germany started helping the Nationalist forces, and the USSR the Popular Front government. Madrid. Hiver 1936-37. Robert Capa Â© International Center of Photography SPAIN. Madrid. November-December 1936. After the Italo-German air raids. The Nationalist offensive on Madrid, which lasted from November 1936 to February 1937, was one of the fiercest of the Civil War. During this period Italy and Germany started helping the Nationalist forces, and the USSR the Popular Front government. The civilians were severely affected by the bombings. Robert Capa Â© International Center of Photography SPAIN. Madrid. November-December, 1936. During the Italo-German air raids, many people took shelter in the subway stations. The Nationalist offensive on Madrid, which lasted from November 1936 to February 1937, was one of the fiercest of the Civil War. During this period Italy and Germany started helping the Nationalist forces, and the USSR the Popular Front government. The civilians were severely affected by the bombings. Robert Capa Â© International Center of Photography SPAIN. January 25-27th, 1939. On the road from Barcelona to the French border. After the fall of Barcelona, but also fascit rule over all of Spain clearly imminent, about 500 000 Spanish civilians sought refuge and political asylum in France. France set up camps along the borders in the PyrÂnÂes Orientales region. Robert Capa Â© International Center of Photography SPAIN. CÃ³rdoba front. Early September, 1936. Death of a loyalist militiaman. Robert Capa Â© International Center of Photography FRANCE. May 1939. Near Biarritz. Orphans of the Spanish Civil War under the care of the &ldquoFoster Parents&rsquo Plan for Spanish Children&rdquo, which was largely financed by the United States. Robert Capa Â© International Center of Photography SPAIN. Andalucia. Cerro Muriano. Cordoba front. Republican soldiers. September 5th, 1936. Robert Capa Â© International Center of Photography SPAIN. Andalucia. September 1936. Cordoba front. An officer addressing the soldiers before an attack. Robert Capa Â© International Center of Photography SPAIN. August-September 1936. A checkpoint near Barcelona. Robert Capa Â© International Center of Photography SPAIN. Barcelona or its vicinity. August, 1936. Republican militiaman aiming a rifle. Robert Capa Â© International Center of Photography SPAIN. Barcelona. August 1936.Republican militiaman saying farewell before the departure of a troop train for the front. Robert Capa Â© International Center of Photography
The Spanish Civil War related to the term of disarmament from the ToV as Hitler used it as a testing ground for his air force. It also related to defeating communism.
In 1936 a civil war broke out in Spain between republicans and right-wing rebels under the fascist leader, General Franco. Stalin supported the republicans whereas Hitler and Mussolini supported General Franco to gain allies and defeat communism.
Hitler tested out troops and artillery therefore the republicans won making Spain a dictatorship for 36 years.
There was no response from the LoN except for France, GB and the USSR providing some weapons.
The Spanish Civil War was significant as it gave combat experience to Germany and Italy as well as strengthening bonds between Hitler and Mussolini. Moreover, it convinced many leaders that they should avoid war at all costs while encouraging Hitler to go ahead with his plans of Foreign Policy.